TORONTO – Canadian Eugenie Bouchard lost her opening match at the Rogers Cup for the second straight year, though she called this defeat a “step in the right direction.”
Bouchard lost to Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic 6-0, 5-7, 6-2 Tuesday night on centre court at Aviva Centre. Nevertheless, she was pleased with her performance battling back from an early deficit.
The 21-year-old from Westmount, Que., has now lost her first match in eight of her past 10 WTA tournaments. Bouchard has also dropped 13 of her past 15 matches overall.
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“It’s easy to let yourself get negative when you lose a couple of matches in a row or you know your body’s not feeling great,” Bouchard said. “It’s definitely been a tough road. And I feel like I’m at least not going downwards anymore. I’m trying to go on the right path.
“I feel like I can be close to performing well on the court, and it’s just been a long, patient kind of battle, and I feel like I’m close to turning it around.”
READ MORE: Eugenie Bouchard ditches coach
As the partisan crowd cheered Bouchard’s every move, it looked like she had nothing in the tank when she was blanked in the first set. She fought off match point in the second set and roared back to win it.
“I was able to raise my game, and I think it was pretty competitive out there after that first set,” Bouchard said. “I was fighting on every single point up until the end, and at the end of the day that’s all I can ask for.”
Bencic moves on to face fourth-seeded Caroline Wozniacki in the second round. The 20th-ranked player in the world praised Bouchard for how she responded in the second set.
“It was a really big fight,” Bencic said. “It’s not like I really choked or something. She really played well that moment.”
Bouchard’s struggles began a year ago when the Rogers Cup was in Montreal and she lost to qualifier Shelby Rogers when ranked fifth. While that was a stunning defeat on the heels of her finals appearance at Wimbledon, this loss followed a year-long trend.
“I think the losses are completely different,” Bouchard said. “I was in a completely different situation last year compared to this year. I feel like I handled myself really well tonight, and you know, better than I did last year coming into that Montreal tournament. So I’m proud of that.”
Amid her struggles, Bouchard has fired two coaches – Nick Saviano in November and Sam Sumyk last week. Bouchard said she was working with Marko Dragic on a short-term basis for the Rogers Cup.
Bouchard on Tuesday night said there were “big problems” between her and Sumyk, who split after she was eliminated from Wimbledon.
“It definitely wasn’t working,” Bouchard said. “I just felt like I had to make a change. I think that was necessary for me.”
She said Dragic will continue coaching her for the time being but added that wasn’t a permanent arrangement.
On the same night Milos Raonic lost to Ivo Karlovic on the men’s side in Montreal, Bouchard’s exit meant there are no Canadians left in women’s singles play.
Francoise Abanda of Montreal lost to 16th-seeded Andrea Petkovic of Germany 3-6, 6-4-6-2, and Carol Zhao of Richmond Hill, Ont., lost 6-1, 6-1 to American Madison Brengle.
Earlier Tuesday, world No. 1 Serena Williams survived an early scare to beat Italy’s Flavia Pennetta 2-6, 6-3, 6-0. Williams was frustrated with how she was playing and then got too angry to focus.
“I said, ‘Serena, you’re going to have to be positive and be good to yourself out here,”‘ Williams said. “Once I started being more positive, I started actually playing better, too.”
Williams is the only player back for this Rogers Cup who played in 2001, when she won the tournament for the first time. Asked how that made her feel, Williams said: “Like a nice vintage wine. A good vintage red wine, I’d say, getting better with age, I hope.”
©2015The Canadian Press